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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Little Owls In July, Part 1. - 3rd to 11th July, 2013

It's been a long time since I posted anything about my favourite subject - Little Owls. In fact, it's been a fair while since I posted anything on this blog, so here we go with an owl update for the start of the month.

Traditionally July and August are my best months for seeing owls in numbers. This is due to the emergence of the fledged juveniles. This year has been a little different as it seems that the owls are mainly having smaller broods of chicks, probably due to the very difficult winter, and a late start. However, it's still been a reasonably good start to July for owl sightings!

On 3rd July, one of my 'local patch' Little Owls was out at my Site No.02 as I went to the butchers, but no photos were taken.

On 4th July, I was on evening Osprey duty at Rutland Water with my pal Titus, and his friend Derek came along for the ride. A Little Owl was out in the nest tree at my Site No.21, but with three of us there, there was no way the owl was going to hang around to have its photo taken!

On the way back, I spotted a LO at my Site No.23, hidden in a Willow tree to the west of a road junction, where we turn left. I stopped the car and got out, and the other two immediately called that the owl had just flown south - but I was still looking at it in the tree! It was directly into the low sun (there was no sensible way round it), so the photos are somewhat unusual! I quite like the golden back-lit effect, however. 


Little Owl - my Site No.23
A short while later we passed my Site No.21 again and an owl was spotted on a very distant footpath sign, so no photos.

On 6th July I had a dedicated evening owling session on my own. I first found a distant LO in a horse paddock at my Site No.17. I've never seen this post in this field before, and next time I went it had gone! I wish that the farmer had moved it a little nearer!

Little Owl - my Site No.17
The owl flew off after a while and I did a bit more exploration and, some 25 minutes later, found a LO in an Oak tree not far from where the one had been on the post, so presumably the same bird. A casual zig-zag approach allowed me to get some closer images, although not as close as I'd have liked.


Little Owl - my Site No.17
A little further up the road is my Site No.03, where I'd not seen an owl since April. This day, however, I was to have a little more luck. After looking around the owls' usual haunts, I spotted one of them in a Sycamore tree, at the far side of a small field, that I'd not seen them in before. I've not been granted access to this field (I've never found the need to request it before) so I only got a distant shot from a place where I have got permission.

Little Owl - my Site No.03
It was getting on for 19:00 now, and I needed to be home early, so that was the end of my evening.

The following day (7th July) I needed to get some wild bird food, and this gives me the opportunity for checking out one of my more distant sites - No.15. Only one bird was seen, and it took a lot of finding. All attempts at photography totally failed. This is the site in the middle of a cultivated field that I can't enter at present.

So far, unusually for July, I'd not seen a single juvenile Little Owl this year.

It was three days later (10th July), on my Wednesday run to the butchers, that I stopped at my local patch Site No.02, and saw three owls on the chimney. I'd been concerned that the owls here might disappear as there was (and still is) a swarm of bees that had taken up residence in their nest barn. I'm still not sure whether I saw two adults and one juvenile, or one adult and two juveniles, as I only had a brief very distant glimpse before all but one bird departed. The one that stayed behind, however, was definitely a juvenile - my first of the year! Not a good shot, but it needs to be recorded!

Little Owl (juvenile) - my Site No.02
I was up at 04:00 the next day, and in my hide at Site No.02 before 05:00! No owls had been seen when I arrived, and I had to wait until 07:40 before an owl appeared. It was a juvenile, and it didn't exit its home from the usual place (the one that I was set up for!) but, instead, appeared directly onto the chimney. It had either been out all the time, or it had exited its home by a different route. This was the best that I could do.

Little Owl (juvenile) - my Site No.02
I then had to wait a full hour before another owl appeared. This time it did appear in the right place for my set-up, but it was an adult! Nevertheless, I'm quite pleased with the results so here they are.


Little Owl - my Site No.02
That evening it had been arranged that I'd have an owling session with my pal Titus. Our objective was to spend a little more time at some of the sites that we are usually only able to visit briefly on our way to Rutland Water. In the event, we only saw owls at two sites - but one was quite exciting for us!

On the outward leg, we spotted an adult Little Owl at my Site No.21, in the nest tree. No usable photos resulted. Fairly recently we'd altered our route to Rutland Water, for safety reasons (blind exits turning right from single lane roads onto fast main roads - it was a 'foot down and fingers crossed' job!). This new route took us through some very owly looking countryside. The first time I passed this way, the local farmer asked my advice on putting up a Barn Owl box. On this visit, with Titus, the farmer was bemoaning the storm damage to a tree which, he said, he sees Little Owls in (no, knowing that I was interested in owls, I've no idea why he hadn't mentioned it before!). So off we went to investigate. 

We soon spotted a Little Owl, although it was well-hidden - and it was a juvenile! This is now my new Site No.41. A little careful repositioning, at a distance, allowed a less concealed view of the young owl. Although the photos are not good, I rather like the Tolkienesque atmosphere of the second image.


Little Owl (juvenile) - my new Site No.41
It was time to leave this bird in peace, and so we set off to re-examine some other sites relatively nearby, in an area where I picked up five new sites earlier this year, and where two of the pairs were evicted by Jackdaws. Seven LO sites were visited, plus a Tawny and Barnie site re-examined (evidence that a Barnie was still roosting there), but no owls were seen at any. 

Two hours later we were passing new No.41 again, and an adult LO was sitting on the edge of what was evidently the nest hole (subsequently I was to find that this nest has at least two entrance holes!).  Only a record shot was obtained, and it's not possible to view this hole from any angle without intervening twigs.

Little Owl - my Site No.41
By now, it was 21:20 and time to be thinking about heading home. As we approached Site No.21, I called for Titus to stop. A Little Owl had popped up into a roadside tree. Cameras were sorted out and the car repositioned, and we managed some shots of the owl in the half-light, not helped by the fact that we were facing west. At first I thought, from the bird's behaviour, that we were looking at a juvenile, but examination of the results show it to be an adult - an example of how the camera can see more than the eye, even through binoculars.


Little Owl - my Site No.21
I was going to bring this post right-up-to-date, but I think it's quite long enough already, so Part 2 will probably appear at the weekend, and will include a couple more hide-based sessions and more juveniles.

30 comments:

  1. Great images Richard, glad to see you're getting back into the "swing" of things with the LO's.

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    1. Thanks Doug. It's great to be back out there with them again. I get a real buzz out of seeing them successfully breeding, even if brood size seems to be down this year.

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  2. Lovely to see the return of the Little owls Richard.
    My favourite is the image from site 17,little stunner.
    John.

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    1. Thank you John. Plenty more from Site No.17 to come in the next post.

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  3. Summer will do that to a person. Shouldn't we be outside instead of writing inside our places? I've been looking for owls but I can't find them!:) I really like these little guys.

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    1. Hi Chris. It's been very hot and humid here for the last couple of weeks (but probably nothing like as bad as you're getting there!). Whilst the Little Owls are often out during the daytime, in this weather they tend to stay hidden away somewhere cool and shady (like inside a tree trunk!), only coming out early or late in the day. On this basis it's sometimes more productive to stay in and write during the day!!

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  4. Excellent photography here. I particularly love the bottom two images, they are really special to my eyes.

    Keep on keeping on Richard.

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    1. Thank you Pete. Those last two are the last ones that I'd have guessed to be anyone's favourites!

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  5. Beautiful series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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    1. Thank you Gary. Say hello to Boom for me!

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  6. The owls are beautiful and your photos are great. I especially like the first two photos with the golden back-lighting.

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  7. Marvellous captures! I really like Little Owl (juvenile) - my new Site No.41! How wonderful to see all these little guys. I have never seen an owl for real!

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    1. Thank you Karen. Dusk is a good time to see owls in UK. I don't know if the same applies to your owls over there?

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  8. Love your Cute Little Owls. Great shots!

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  9. absolutely beautiful; thanks for sharing these wonderful photographs

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    1. Thank you Carole. Would like to have visited your own blog, but can't get my head round Google+!

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  10. Great shots, its a long long time since I saw a Little owl, good to see they seem to be doing OK in your area.
    All the best Gordon.

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    1. Thank you Gordon. They're not doing too badly here although, like many of the owls and raptors all over UK, they had a pretty tough time of it this last winter, and sadly many of them have gone. My current view is that they're not having a good breeding season either, meaning that numbers will probably take time to recover.

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  11. It's great you were able to capture the juveniles, I hope you will see more of them.

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    1. Thank you Linda - more to appear in the next post!

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  12. More good stuff mate, I really like the one where it is perched on top of the long thin pole (the one the farmer moved!).

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    1. Thanks mate. I reckon I'll have to try and get that pole reinstated, but a bit nearer!

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  13. Beautiful shots of the cute owls!

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  14. Great looking images - I'm having a bit of an owl drought here at present - I'll have to try harder!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Thank Stewart. Trying is the best way - I don't see many owls by accident!

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  15. Beautiful pictures of the Little Owls.
    Thanks for sharing thesis wonderful photographs.

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